Madang women seek to contribute to economy
China: Strings implicit & designed to entrap

Australia sleeps on job as China nears


ADELAIDE – Why are Australian taxpayers funding Papua New Guinea’s 111 parliamentarians with $2.9M (K8 million) each for District Services Improvement Fund, and other discretionary funds, with little accountability and proper procurement process?

When Charles Abel was Treasurer from 2017-19, he tried to wind back these funds in the budget, but was over-ruled by prime minister Peter O’Neill.

The personal disposition of these funds was and remains a way of maintaining support for the government, keeping incumbents in power and feeding corruption.

It should not be supported by Australia. It should be exposed and stopped.

I’ve been waiting since 2 June 2020 for Australia’s foreign minister Marise Payne to respond to a question of mine.

The question is: What safeguards are in place to ensure that Australia's recent $440 million (K1.2 billion) loan to Papua New Guinea isn't corruptly misappropriated?

Australian taxpayers surely have a right to some assurance their taxes aren’t being corruptly used.

The Lowy Institute’s Jonathan Pryke has rightly said that any Australian loan of this size should be conditional upon Stage 2 of the Ramu hydro-electric project being subject to a proper cost-benefit analysis.

The Australian's foreign affairs correspondent Ben Packham broke this important story from which John Greenshields derived his information

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has said of this project that “China is pushing [it] relentlessly with the PNG government…. Ramu 2 would probably bankrupt the national power entity, PNG Power, given limited energy demand and the estimated construction cost of around K7 billion” financed by China Exim Bank.

And what have Australia, USA, Japan and New Zealansd been doing on the PNG electrification project since this huge commitment was at APEC in 2018?

Asleep, I’d suggest, allowing China to engage in further debt-trap diplomacy.

It beggars belief that we can be so naive, lazy and ignorant about Papua New Guinea.

This needs more than a prayer session between Scott Morrison and James Marape.

The Australian government and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade need to wake up.


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Chris Overland

Phil, I am not proposing treating China as a dark monster. Basically, I think that the desired result is that no power is able to dominate the world's seas, be it China or the USA or any other power.

I agree with you that this requires the USA and China to figure out an acceptable compromise in relation to the South China Sea. The current 9 dash line defined by China is definitely not acceptable and must necessarily be challenged.

This area is the scene of constant military activity at the moment. The risk is that, at some point, someone will make a mistake and so trigger the proverbial cascade of disaster. There are plenty of historic precedents for this.

While the risk of direct conflict remains low at the moment, the Chinese government's rhetoric is becoming increasingly strident.

Also, it has created the legal framework within which its ships or planes are authorised to use "all necessary force" to impose its will within its self defined sphere of influence or control.

Meanwhile, the USA has a significant naval and airborne presence in the area.

What could possibly go wrong?

In my assessment it will be when the current world economic order finally collapses under the weight of the stupendous debt mountains created over the last few decades that the risk of direct conflict will rise to truly dangerous levels.

This will be triggered by a Black Swan event which is unforeseen and unforeseeable and which is entirely misunderstood by the world's power elites.

It is just a matter of time really and I feel sure that the hard heads employed within our military and intelligence communities know this. Whether our politicians (or China's for that matter) can grasp the idea is another matter.

William Dunlop

Chris, Touche'. I lived in Dailang, Shunde, Guangdong Province on and off during 2009-11, a very active 67 year old.

I was developing emergency accommodation modules at Singamas Container Holdings in conjunction with Kevin Malouf of Price and Speed of Botany in Sydney, and Maurice Reville of Pacific International Shipping of Auckland, New Zealand.

We eventually waked.

We were spending our own money, not shareholders.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I suspect that "devising and implementing an effective containment strategy that, while respecting China’s legitimate rights, constrains it from achieving a position of geo-political dominance across Asia and the Pacific" might be a recipe for disaster.

The main reason for doing such a thing is that the USA, assisted by its little mate Australia, wants to occupy that position of dominance itself.

Two elephants fighting for the same seat in a crowded room is not really a very good idea.

Rather, the USA and China need to come to terms about their ambitions and work out a mutually agreeable solution.

With Trump gone that may be possible.

That might be a better way to go than treating China as some sort of dark monster lurking at the window.

Chris Overland

As one of PNG Attitude’s more vociferous critics of the Chinese government (as distinct from its citizens generally) I would like to take up Arthur’s and Phil’s comments about how China has risen so far and so fast.

In doing so, I reject any inference that criticisms of Chinese government policies and action reflect an inherent Sinophobia.

In particular, I draw a clear distinction between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) which rules the country and the Chinese people generally: they are clearly not the same thing.

I freely acknowledge the huge achievement of the CCP in facilitating the rapid rise of China to resume its rightful place as a major power in the world.

However, I note that this only became possible when, under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, the party essentially rejected most of its hitherto orthodox communist ideology in favour of “socialism with Chinese characteristics”.

In practice, this meant switching to a state controlled form of the capitalism that had for so long been repudiated and condemned by Mao Zedong and other party luminaries.

The CCP that remains exhibits many of the structures of the old communist regime but is, at its heart, essentially just another version of the one party state that is typically fostered by authoritarians everywhere.

The triumph of China has been greatly aided and abetted by the naïve, greedy and rather stupid capitalists of the western world, who cheerfully ignored the true nature of the CCP and made the heroic assumption that as its wealth grew China would “naturally” transform itself into some sort of democratic state. This hubris is now reaping its reward.

The capitalist ruling elites clearly knew nothing about China’s history in which at no time has the idea of democracy penetrated their ancient culture.

Its only manifestation is, paradoxically, in the former British colonial possession of Hong Kong and Beijing is ruthlessly suppressing it there as I write. The masses must be taught to know their place, which is not in the halls of power.

Fundamentally, the CCP is both suspicious and afraid of the people it purports to lead. Unleashing the masses would put its power at risk and this cannot be tolerated.

The contrast with democracies, even those as deeply flawed as that of the USA, is striking.

The leadership of the CCP has, until quite recently at least, successfully hidden its true nature and ambitions. It has out thought and out manoeuvred the western political leadership at every turn.

Only with its resort to “wolf warrior” diplomacy has the Chinese government decided to reveal its true face to the world.

So, in the context of PNG, there should be no illusions whatsoever as to the true nature of the Chinese regime or its ambitions to dominate its self defined sphere of influence.

By all means do deals with Chinese enterprises but, be warned, they are or can easily be made instruments of state policy by a government that routinely uses intimidation, harassment, imprisonment and even lethal force to impose its will and crush dissent.

All that said, the world is going to have to live with a China controlled by the CCP for a very long time. The nature of the long term relationship with this mighty but still fragile authoritarian power is yet to emerge.

Our democratic ruling elites have only belatedly come to understand this and certainly have shown no sign yet of having a collective position on what their strategic policy approach can or should be.

I think that this should be devised on a multi-lateral basis and have military, political, economic and cultural elements.

Very probably, this process will first rely upon the USA shrugging off the horrors of the Trump era and restoring its fractured relations with other democratic powers.

Only then can the hard work begin on devising and implementing an effective containment strategy that, while respecting China’s legitimate rights, constrains it from achieving a position of geo-political dominance across Asia and the Pacific.

PNG risks becoming a pawn in this 'Great Game' and so may find its interests and needs ignored or sacrificed if this suits any of the major players.

The fate of Cuba is instructive in this regard as well as that of China’s Uyghur population.

I am not advocating for return of the 'reds under the bed' idiocy of the Cold War era, but the crafting of a rational, balanced and effective response to a power which threatens the use of main force to impose its will upon others.

This balance of power approach has long been used to keep the world's major powers from lurching into war and there is no reason why it cannot be used once again.

John Greenshields

Ben Packham's fine article in The Australian prompted me to add to his.

It took me back to 1970 when I was working at Comworks in Spring Garden Road, Konedobu next to engineers designing and delivering the first stage of Ramu Hydro, with transmission lines to the Highlands and north coast.

The attached link gives a World Bank summary, for the technically and financially minded:

Australia managed it then, both economically and technically. It can do so again, if PNG wishes. It's not that hard, and probably much cheaper for PNG in the long term.

A proper cost-benefit analysis would determine this. Maybe Australia, the US, Japan and NZ should fund this study, if it's not a done deal.

Ben Packham

A little attribution please!

Done! Readers should also know that Ben, a senior journalist with The Australian, has broken many major stories about PNG and we can expect many more as the country increasingly becomes a target for Chinese activity - KJ

Philip Fitzpatrick

Spot on Arthur.

How else could you manage such a hugely populated nation and lift its citizens out of poverty other than through communism?

Imagine if China was a laissez faire capitalist society like the USA and Australia. Imagine where that would leave its people. Imagine the inequities, corruption and institutionalised greed.

I can't help thinking that a large part of the ongoing commentary on China on PNG Attitude is driven by lingering beliefs harkening back to the 'reds under the bed' era.

William Dunlop

Many, many moons ago I described the then incumbent in Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ms Julie Bishop, as best suited to judging the flower section at rural Australian shows.

The present incumbent, Marisa Payne, joined by our hale and hearty but not so well met in the Pacific Basin marketing guru prime minister Scomo are again well down that path. Enough.

Arthur Williams

For years Australia has been exporting its minerals and agricultural products to China which of course has been 100% communist since 1949.

Many Australians have got very rich from those exports. By providing so much raw materials for China all such exporters and their permitting Australian governments of all shades have allowed the most populated nation to rapidly prosper.

These Australians and other nationals have been actively supporting communism by their amoral behaviour in the pursuit of riches.

So why then has Australia suddenly awoken from its self satisfied dream. Who is pulling the strings for this sudden Sinophobia.

What did any educated person think would happen when the nation reached over a billion population in 1982? Would it be content with allowing the continuance of the staggering poverty of hundreds of millions of its people or would it eradicate that problem by becoming an economic powerhouse.
Did Australia, USA, NZ or Europe think it would merely exist as a market for their own commercial production buying western tat like it had once bought British opium?

Suddenly the capitalist west is worried about the competition. They can hardly complain of poverty wages for the masses as the majority of the nation is alleged to be now part of the middle class.

It is an old dilemma for the Occidental world that seems to show a 'guided' socialist style of commerce can beat the more greedy capitalism brand of Washington and their freres in Europe, Australia etc.

Mind the Oriental Communist system has its anomalies as according to one report China has more billionaires than even the USA though the latter has around 19,000 millionaires compared to China's 5,000.

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